welcome to "newsline." i'm keikichi haneda in tokyo. here are some of the stories we're following this hour. syrian opposition activists have found a new way to show the civil war is still a toll. as world leaders focus more attention on ukraine. the crimea crisis is affecting people's sentiments in
kosovo where nato bombing can chep achieve independence. officials in puerto rico have attracted millions in foreign investigationment. but the people who live there aren't happy. the u.s. secretary of state john kerry and russian foreign minister sergey lavrov have discussed the unrest in the eastern ukraine. they agreed that the matter should be revolved peacefully without the use of force. but they remain divided in their positions. kerry and lavrov spoke by phone twice on wednesday. but they failed to bridge the gap in their views. the u.s. has accused russian agents and special forces of being behind the unrest in ukraine. russia has been calling for greater autonomy for ethnic russians. pro-russian residents in donetsk and luhansk are occupying the buildings used by the provin i shall assembly and security forces. the interim government is
threatening to forcefully remove protesters. u.s. and russian negotiators plan to hold talks next week with their counterparticipas fre ukraine and european union to seek a resolution to the crisis. the crisis in crimea has spread to eastern ukraine where protesters are occupying government buildings and demanding the region secede from ukraine. the situation has deepened the divide between russia and the u.s. and europe. western leaders are calling russians move in cry mooe ya illegal. russia counters a russian nations helped them achieve independence. >> reporter: president putin has justified russia's annexation of crimea by drawing a parallel between the region and kosovo.
>> translator: the west recognized the independence of kosovo. then why do they refuse to recognize crimea's independence? the situations are the same. >> reporter: koes show broke away from serbia and unilateral declared independence in 2008. ethnic albanians hold the majority of the population. they are critical of putin's action. >> translator: putin just wants to increase his territories to make a big russia. >> translator: putin is trying to make a comparison with kosovo. but the cases are not the same. >> reporter: in the capital pristina stands a statue of former u.s. president bill clinton. many residents here consider him as a hero who protected them
from a persecution and massacre by the serbian troops. in 1999, clinton led nato's bombing campaign on facilities of then the federal republic of yuk slav ya. an increasing military pressure withdrew the forces from kosovo. >> reporter: over 100 countries have recognized kosovo's independence. but serbia and its strong ally, russia, have refused. >> it is not obvious at all what could possibly be the legal
basis for even considering the recognition of this unilateral declaration of independence. >> reporter: the majority a albanians and minority serbs live here separately. that said is albania's side. i am standing on serbia's side. on the bridge between two sides you can see a barricade that blocks access by cars. about 5,000 nato troops are still deployed to monitor peace and security. they are flying flags of serbia, not kosovo, in their area. people use the serbian currency, not the euro like the rest of kosovo. this man tells me that he feels serbs are segregated.
>> translator: people in the west see us, serbs, as hard liners. we don't get any investment from foreign countries. >> reporter: people here support russia's annexation of crimea and some say they want their region to be with serbia. >> translator: crimea used to belong to russia. they took their own land back. residents decided themselves by referendum. >> translator: if the people of crimea decided they wanted it to be annexed, so be it. we want to be annexed to serbia. >> reporter: there are rising concerns the crimea crisis may heighten conflicts among different ethnic groups in other parts of the surrounding region. sassanhk world, kosovo. >> kosovo's prime minister thaci
will arrive in tokyo saturday for a four-day min. he will meet prime minister abe. the two leaders are likely to discuss the situation in ukraine and its effect on the surrounding region. the crisis in ukraine has overshadowed another international concern. the civil war in syria. some people have launched a new online campaign to show the conflict is still taking its toll on civilians. one of the latest outbursts of violence happened in the city of homs where a car bombing killed at least 25 people and wounded many others. more from nhk world's craig dale. >> reporter: smoke streamed into the air and charred cars littered the street. this video from syrian state television reportedly shows the aftermath of yet another deadly attack. this one blamed on forces fighting against president bashar al assad's regime.
the conflict in syria has been going on for three years now, and it's been grinding on as world leaders grapple with the situation in ukraine. with u.s. and russian officials at odds over the state of things in that country, the urgency to push the warring sides to negotiate peace seems to have faded somewhat. >> syria remains a humanitarian catastrophe. >> reporter: u.s. secretary of state john kerry says he and his russian counterpart are still working on it. >> i was talking to partners with lavrov. we were talking about the need for movement in syria. and the ability to complete the task. >> reporter: in the meantime, more syrians die every day. u.n. officials say more than 100,000 have died since the conflict began. >> killings, cruelty, persons in detention, disappearances. >> reporter: the high commissioner for human rights puts the bulk of blame on the
assad regime. >> it's a government that is mostly responsible for the violations. and all these perpetrators should be identified and can if there's a referral to the international court. >> reporter: the syrian ambassador said she's being used as a tool of pressure by some on the u.n. security council. >> she has become an integral part of this orchestrated campaign by some influential members in the council to exert pressure on the syrian government. >> reporter: so with diplomats at odds and peace a dtant possibility, opposition activists are launched a new social media campaign to shine a light on the suffering. they're encouraging people to use the #savealeppo to draw attention to the dire situation in the syrian city. public pressure like this can have an impact but it alone won't solve the crisis. ending this will require nothing short of a deal between the assad administration and the opposition. they've held two rounds of peace
negotiations, but have produced little in the way of results. they've yet to announce plans for a third. craig dale, nhk world. a separatetist group has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack at the busy vegetable market in pakistan. the blast on the outskirts of the capital islamabad left 21 people dead and more than 80 injured. a separatist group is from the ethnic balucci minority. an expert said the attack was retaliation for the ongoing arrests and killings of its members by security forces in a southwestern province. the group warns it will conduct more attacks unless the government ends the crackdown. the blast comes a day after the group blew up a train in balujistan killing 17 people. the long running insurgency in that province is separate to the
taliban. the attacks came as the government began talks with the taliban. negotiators from iran and six world powers are trying to narrow what they call significant gaps on the iranian nuclear program. they say they are moving on to the next phase, drafting a final agreement. but they admit they're a long way away. the negotiators wrapped up two days of talks in vienna. they had difficulty agreeing on the scale of iran's program of uranium enrichment. >> we will now move to the next phase in the negotiations. in which we will aim to bridge the gaps in all the key areas and work on the concrete elements of a possible comprehensive agreement. >> the negotiators have also argued over heavy water reactor under construction in the western city of iraq.
they also discussed how inspectors from the international atomic energy agency might monitor nuclear facilities. iranian foreign minister mohammed javad sharif said the negotiators agreed on 50% to 60% of the issues. but he said the subjects still on the table are very important and diverse. a senior u.s. official praised the progress they made, but admitted negotiations on the comprehensive agreement will be extremely difficult. the negotiators will meet again next month. they are aiming for a final agreement by late july. let's now turn to the latest in biz with ron madison. >> managers of japanese companies are cautious about what's ahead. they spent less on equipment in february as machinery orders dropped from double digit growth seen just the month before. officials at the cabinet office say orders were down 8.8%. that's worse than many analysts
had expected. orders added up to about $7.5 billion. that excludes sales in the volatile shipbuilding and power plant sectors. orders for manufacturers fell by nearly 12% from the previous month. those from nonmanufacturers down more than 8%. cabinet office officials have previously said orders were picking up. they now say the growth trend has come to a standstill. they say the decline is likely to continue as more sectors scale down their purchases. on to the markets now. chinese equities went higher after securities regulators in shanghai and hong kong announced that they would allow cross-border investments. this allowed mainland investors to trade a limited number of hong kong listed shares while hong kong investors can buy selected shanghai listed stocks. this news boosted financial shares in shanghai. investors were hopeful the program will attract more capital inflows into both markets and the shanghai composite. hitting a seven-week high today
up 1.4% roughly, 2,134. the strength in chinese stocks pushed others higher today. the nikkei average ended flat, though, at 14,300. reversing earlier gains. a firmer yen weighed on overall sentiment. automakers were hit pretty hard. meanwhile, nonferrous metals were in demand following up beat earnings by a u.s. aluminum giant. in jakarta the main index closed lower by more than 3%. 4,756. investors wary of possible uncertainties in the country's politics due to the expected outcome of the parliamentary elections on wednesday. china exports fell last month for the second month in a row. that's raising concerns about the future of the world's second largest economy. officials at china's customs agency announced that exports in march were about $170 billion. that's down more than 6.5% from a year earlier.
and it was worse than what analysts were expecting. imports totalled just over $160 billion. that was down about 11%. also below market forecasts. it's the first time imports have fallen year on year since last june. analysts worn that if chinese exports remain weak it could hinder efforts to achieve stable growth zblmpblts consumers in japan have a new tool for rating shops and services. the u.s.-based website yelp has launched a japanese portal. yelp allows people to post reviews about local restaurants, stores and other businesses. it's one of the world's largest community-sourced review sites with about 120 million users a month. users were able to begin posting information in tokyo and osaka on wednesday. japan is the 26th country to get a yelp site and the second in asia after singapore. a statement on the company's official blog said japan is not only a gateway to asia, but a technological and cultural marble. officials in the u.s.
territory of puerto rico are going the way of their counterparts in places such as singapore and ireland. they're trying to shore up their economy by giving tax breaks to foreign firms. and they're spending millions on infrastructure to support those companies. but the plan seems to be backfiring. nhk world's kenji m mccauley tells us more. >> reporter: 4 million tourists visit the caribbean island of puerto rico each year. many people also come to do business. an airline president decided to move the company's headquarters here this month from the u.s. virgin islands. the puerto rican government will pay half the company's rent. it's also offering tax incentives that will reduce the firm's tax burden to one-quarter of what it was. the airline plans to hire 100 new workers locally to expand business in the territory. >> we have many, many more opportunities for customers, for
employees and, you know, and, again, to build our infrastructure and grow the company. puerto rico and the puerto rican government helps us to do that. >> reporter: more than 100 firms a year have moved their base to the island. the government welcomes the new arrivals. boasting high-tech infrastructureal support. >> we want them to expand. we want them to create new jobs. then expansions in terms of both new companies coming to the island as well as new segments. >> reporter: but puerto rico's economic strategy is backfiring. >> reporter: some residents are protesting against the plan to close this public elementary school. the government plans to merge the school later this year with another. more than five kilometers away. government officials blame
budgetary problems. the same problems have led to the shutdown of many public facilities, causing discontent among puerto ricans. critics say excessive investment in public works is the problem. the government has spent a lot on infrastructure to attract foreign firms to open shop here. public debt has ballooned as a result. the decline in local businesses is another factor. they pay a tax rate of nearly 20% compared to about 4% for foreign firms. as a result of this tax system, local companies find it difficult to compete, so they are being forced to close. this, in turn, has reduced government tax revenues. in february, ratings agencies downgraded puerto rican government debt, sending shockwaves throughout financial markets. those bonds are sold by u.s. and european financial institutions. if the puerto rican economy collapses, the effects would be
felt in the u.s. and europe, too. a group of citizens organized a meeting to oppose the closing of schools and other streamlining measures. the government is planning sharp cuts to public servants' pensions and social security benefits. many people are urging the government to reconsider its preferential tax treatment for foreign firms. >> translator: foreign firms should contribute more. why doesn't the government raise their tax rate by 1%? if the government stopped this wasteful investment, they could reallocate the money to education. >> i think the government has two or three things that they need to do very quickly. one is to very quickly announce a reform of the tax system. well, if nothing is done i think what will happen is the government is going to be in a very serious situation, maybe a year and a half from now when
their liquidity runs out. >> reporter: puerto ricans have seen their economy grow fast. but at what price? the country is now at a critical juncture as policymakers face a growing public debt and public discontent. kenji mccully, nhk world. okay. that is going to do it for biz this hour. let's check in on the markets.
ja poon's air self-defense force scrambled fighter jets a record number of times against chinese aircraft for the second consecutive year. air self-defense force pilots performed 810 emergency takeoffs in response to possible territorial intrusions by foreign aircraft. it's the first time in 24 years that the number has topped 800. more than half were in response to chinese planes after about 110 from the previous year. such responses have increased since japan nationalized the senkaku islands in the east china sea two years ago. china and taiwan claim the islands. japan's government maintains that the islands are an inherent part of japan easter toir and that there is no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved over the islands.
the number of chinese early warning aircraft and bombers flying over international waters between miyako island and okinawa's main island has also increased since last summer. aircraft were scrambled against russian planes nearly 360 times last year, up about 110 from the previous year. time now for a check of the weather. a cyclone is heading to northeastern australia. our meteorologist robert speta is here with an update. robert? >> yes. we are watching out here as now a very severe and potentially very dangerous or deadly storm system, if people do not take the proper precautions out ahead of this. this is cyclone ita. it's continues to track to the west. now a category 5 on the
meteorology scale. this is the highest it goes. take a look at the visible satellite imagery. you can get a little more detail on this storm system. the eye really defined in that center of circulation. here's your eye wall where winds, well, right now about 205 kilometers per hour sustained. put that in perspective. that's equivalent of an f-2 if we were talking about the fujita scale which measures tornadoes. definitely very destructive storm system potentially. then these outer rain bands already starting to push rain near the coastline. those could potentially damaging winds and rainfall in themselves. over the next several days, basically 24 hours we'll see the storm system come ashore, there's a threat of significant structure damage. also widespread power outages. i specifically mention that, not just the power outages, but a lot of people out here do have generator ps p cyclone yasi was the last major storm system to hit the area. there was one death. that was because somebody had a generator running inside their home without proper ventilation. keep that in mind if you do have a power outage out here with the system. let's take a look at the track,
though. right now like i said, winds of 205 gusting up to 285 kilometers per hour. that pressure continues to fall. that means this is still strengthening and intensifying as it pushes across the reef making land fall just south of cape melville north of cannes by friday afternoon into the evening hours. keep in mind just south of that center of circulation, that's the right front quadrant. that's where we'll see the significant threat of storm surge and those highest threats of damaging winds. if you are away from the center, still watch the storm system. watch it drift down there toward the southeast. even cannes you should see typhoon equivalent strength winds. also heavy rainfall extending as far south as townsville and eventually toward brisbane to the weekend. to the north, japan, you have high pressure basically dominating off towards the west right now. we do have a front moving in through the north. that's bringing precipitation in the form of snow in and across
hokkaido. as this does continue to move off gail advisories in place behind it. cooler weather filtering in across much of japan. temperatures p u to some of the highest they have been so far in 2014. tokyo, it's going to cool off as we look ahead into friday eventually towards saturdays. showers about 20 to 50 millimeters expected here through the coming days. chongqing, shanghai, showers for you. tokyo cooling to 20. beijing at 18. that's following wednesday's high up to 30. cooling off there for you as well. more seasonal levels. across the americas we are seeing along the eastern seaboards, some rather decent weather. we have a front coming in from the west. that pumping in warm air out ahead of it. it's bringing thunderstorms, even the risk of severe weather. i'll go ahead and show you video coming out of washington, d.c., where we have been seeing the cherry blossoms. they came in a little bit late this year. thousands of visitors have flocked to view this sea of pink there on wednesday. this prolonged cold weather, though, delayed the beautiful blossoms here in 2014.
this also marks the 102nd anniversary this year where japan gave the u.s. and d.c. these blossoms. so definitely a very beautiful sight to see. let's go ahead and take a look at your four-day forecast if you are in washington, d.c. showers on friday and saturday. by sunday it will be warming back up. here's the extended forecast.
>> with me, here are the headlines this hour. just one day left before a deadline imposed by ukraine on pro-russian protesters. the interior minister says they leave the buildings they are occupying peaceably or move out -- or be moved out by force. the u.n. is set to vote on sending in some 12,000 more people -- peacekeepers to the central african republic. the lease say at least 30 people have been killed in the crossfire in new fighting between the christian militia and the muslim fighters.